The Need for Unity
GIFT Espouses Unity In Christian Witness
Despite doctrinal differences, where we can all work together, we should work together -- and we at GIFT want to help bring about this unity of witness. We want to help all baptized fulfill on the call to work towards the transformation of the world in love and joy and peace.
As GIFT is a cross-denominational ministry, we will work to affect unity among Christians for the cause of Christ and to eliminate discord and disunity that hampers witness.
We'll do this through encouraging the fervent pursuit of truth and love. In particular, we will illuminate scripture in such a manner as to encourage dialogue rather than discord.
The need for leading a united Christian witness was well articulated by Indian Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce Reservation. Chief Joseph noted his frustration with the dissension among the Body of Christ, and he cited the dissension in essentially thwarting the Indians' pursuit of Christ, "We do not want Churches because they will teach us to quarrel about God, as the Catholics and Protestants do." Ouch!
Our fear is, this is happening around the world today as well. At a time when "all of the baptized are called to work toward the transformation of the world" -- a time when immorality and world views are valued as more appealing than God and His transforming Word -- we cannot let disunity, dissension, discord or factions continue to derail and thwart the Church's witness of Christ's transforming love. Because everyone needs to experience the Christ's presence in their lives.
Jesus prayed for our unity and had even warned that our disunity would impede our witness, "May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me... Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined." John 17:23; Luke 11:17 NIV
Leadership Magazine also emphasized the chasms in the church have had a debilitating effect on the understanding of Christian truths and Christianity's ability to affect transformations:
"We evangelicals tend to act like nothing existed in Church history prior to the Reformation . . . there are many things of great value that we can draw from these wells...
"A lot of Protestants have discovered we kind of threw the baby out with the bath water in the Reformation, in terms of practices. Now we're coming back and rediscovering them, and turning to our Catholic sisters and brothers because they're the ones with the expertise..."
Martin Luther's own 95 Theses also espoused a repentance that manifests a transformation, but that seems to have been overlooked in deference to his efforts aimed at reforming the Church. Luther even noted that without such a transformation -- without manifesting works of love -- we may be at risk of living a false assurance of peace.
GIFT Will Be Promoting Constructive Dialogue Among Faiths And Citing Examples Of Unity
Excerpts of Joint Catholic and Methodist Commission report -- The Grace Given You in Christ: Catholics and Methodists Reflect Further on the Church -- illustrate an effective approach toward unity in witness which we all may need to embrace.
Reflecting on why the Holy Spirit had permitted all the divisions between Christians, Pope John Paul II noted,
"Methodists can now recognize the Roman Catholic Church as a true church. Obvious as it may seem, this needs to be clearly stated because Methodists have not always viewed the Roman Catholic Church so positively."
Based on these combined perspectives firmly establishing the value of unity, GIFT will be working fervently at reducing the disunity currently impeding effective Church witness.
Finally, GIFT wants to encourage all Christians on a very important and intimate issue: let's not argue or act against one another's Christian faith based on differing interpretations -- or, worse, based on misperceptions -- regarding the teachings of a particular Christian faith. But rather, let us seek unity, common-ground, truth and dialogue to build each other up in the transforming work of God's Kingdom.
Along that line, GIFT begs to ask one key question of all Christians: Should any of Christ's Church today still be portrayed as "Protestants?"
Is that a "brand identity" or a "mission" -- that we really want to convey? Should Christians identify with -- or portray to non-Christians -- a people continually "protesting" against another part of Christ's beloved body; a people conflicted about or divisive in our views of our God? Especially considering the declining state of the Church in the developed world and its diminishing influence on today's increasingly materialistic and un-Godly world?
"Protesting" is definately not what the Christian "brand experience" is all about. It's all about Christ and His wonderful, transforming love. It should be an experience and community of JOY - prioritizing life around Jesus, Others then You. Advocating any other "experience" diminishes Christ and fails to re-present His love.
So, instead, shouldn't we be aiming our collective energies toward re-presenting Christ's love and defeating our common enemy -- the prince of darkness, the liar, the divider, the purveyor of death for all eternity?
Shouldn't we be working with one another as beloved children of God, based on our commonly accepted baptisms and our receipt of Christ's selfless love and forgiveness? Shouldn't we all seek to glow as a light in the ever-increasing darkness? Shouldn't we, as Christians, view ourselves as a part of the Lord's body, united in working toward the transformation of the world through the light of Christ?
Perhaps the following Bible verses best illuminate how we can all work within a spirit of genuine unity. They emphasize God's saving grace, and they diminish the long-standing denominational conflicts over whether Scripture alone should guide us, or whether we must perform works to be truly Christ-like:
But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our Gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. 2 Thessalonians 2: 13-16 NIV®